Celtic Connections 2014 begins this Thursday. The festival will last 18 days and this is its most exciting programme to date. This will be the festivalâ€™s 21st year and it has certainly developed and grown according to Donald Shaw, Artistic Director of Celtic Connections: â€œThe festival is really coming of age this year, as can be seen from the expansion into Scotland new leading venue and also in the diversity of this yearâ€™s programme. Although Celtic Connections still stays true to its roots it has definitely become more adventurous and brings music from all over the world to Glasgowâ€™s stages. The festival also continues to embrace other musical genres as can be seen in the line-up of this yearâ€™s Opening Concert. Whoâ€™d have thought 20 years ago that one of the worldâ€™s most incredible classical musical stars would be premiering new collaborative work alongside Scottish traditional musicians at the opening night of the festival?â€ 2014 will see the festival expanding into Scotlandâ€™s SSE Hydro with two very special shows. Glasgowâ€™s Del Amitri will play their first UK show since 2002 on the cityâ€™s newest and biggest stage on Friday 24th January. On Saturday 25th January a star-studded line-up will take the Hydroâ€™s stage for the Celtic Connections International Burns Night which has been made possible thanks to support from Homecoming Scotland 2014. Musical greats such as Capercailllie, Rachel Sermanni, Dougie MacLean, The Mahotella Queens and Raghu Dixit will explore Burnsâ€™s influence throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. The line-up is ever growing and there will be some surprise appearances on the night, as well as celebrations of the lives of Nelson Mandela and Northern Irish Poet Seamus Heaney. Celtic Connections International Burns Concert will be aired on BBC Scotland later that night. Indie folk band Admiral Fallow, Scottish alternative folk rock band Kassidy, songstress Eddi Reader, founder member of The Delgados Emma Pollock, Horse McDonald, Hue & Cry, Little Fire, Siobhan Wilson, Joe Nisbet Jnr and Tommy Reilly are among the acts taking part in tge Alliance Scotland celebration concert â€“ Letters, Life and Love Stories: A Celebration of Caring. This show will pay tribute to the love and complete dedication of Scotland’s 660,000 carers, by bringing some of their inspiring stories to life with music.